Deuteronomy 5:20 – False Witness


Deuteronomy 5:20


The eighth word for Catholics and Lutherans, the ninth for Judaism and Protestants, deals with bearing false witness.


Once again, a narrower focus than we are accustomed to give is demanded by this commandment. The bearing of false witness (shaw, “emptiness,” in Hebrew; compare, sheqer, “deception” in Exodus 20:16) is lodged in the law court. Gossiping, white lies, falsehood, deceit, mendacious bombast, and the many other ways human beings prevaricate are not technically addressed here. This is so, as we have seen before, because of the relational context of the Decalogue. One may not lie in a legal proceeding by offering false testimony because of the damage such activity does to the relational fabric of the covenant community.